Joan M. Pratt, an accountant competing with a veteran legislator to become Baltimore's next comptroller, launched her campaign yesterday with an impressive gathering of supporters and a promise to restore public trust in the job.
Addressing a noontime rally of about 250 supporters in a sun-drenched church courtyard, Ms. Pratt emphasized her financial expertise and outlined several initiatives to cut costs and boost efficiency in the comptroller's office.
She also offered her candidacy as a chance to "redeem that which has been lost" with the downfall of Jacqueline F. McLean, the first black woman to become city comptroller, in a corruption scandal.
"I say to all people of good will, to my brothers and especially to all my sisters, that we cannot go back to the exclusion of some, but rather must meet the challenges ahead together . . .," Ms. Pratt said. "We hold this position to be non-negotiable. To do otherwise would be engaging in complicity with those who wish to turn back the clock."
Ms. Pratt's opponent is Julian L. "Jack" Lapides, who has lined up numerous supporters as well-known as he is from his 32 years in state politics.
His most recent mailing features endorsements from U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, state Sens. Clarence W. Blount and Nathaniel J. McFadden, and Dels. Elijah E. Cummings, Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, all city Democrats.
It was evident from yesterday's crowd in the courtyard of Zion Lutheran Church, across from City Hall, that Ms. Pratt, too, has wide name recognition in Baltimore. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke stopped by, as did several City Council members, state delegates and the Rev. Frank Madison Reid III, pastor of Bethel AME Church, one of the largest congregations in the city.
An accountant with her own practice, Ms. Pratt until recently was controller for the Legal Aid Bureau and is a trustee of the city's pension system. She proposed several changes for the city comptroller's office, including creating a performance evaluation office, reorganizing the audits department and establishing a citizens review board on fraud and waste.
"I think she will be a very formidable and fine opponent, and I'm looking forward to the race," Mr. Lapides said.
Asked whether he thought it would be a hotly contested race, Mayor Schmoke said with a grin, "This is going to be a very competitive election year for everyone."